Comparing bioenergy production sites in the southeastern US regarding ecosystem service supply and demand

Markus A. Meyer, Tanzila Chand, Joerg A. Priess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Biomass for bioenergy is debated for its potential synergies or tradeoffs with other provisioning and regulating ecosystem services (ESS). This biomass may originate from different production systems and may be purposefully grown or obtained from residues. Increased concerns globally about the sustainable production of biomass for bioenergy has resulted in numerous certification schemes focusing on best management practices, mostly operating at the plot/field scale. In this study, we compare the ESS of two watersheds in the southeastern US. We show the ESS tradeoffs and synergies of plantation forestry, i.e., pine poles, and agricultural production, i.e., wheat straw and corn stover, with the counterfactual natural or semi-natural forest in both watersheds. The plantation forestry showed less distinct tradeoffs than did corn and wheat production, i.e., for carbon storage, P and sediment retention, groundwater recharge, and biodiversity. Using indicators of landscape composition and configuration, we showed that landscape planning can affect the overall ESS supply and can partly determine if locally set environmental thresholds are being met. Indicators on landscape composition, configuration and naturalness explained more than 30% of the variation in ESS supply. Landscape elements such as largely connected forest patches or more complex agricultural patches, e.g., mosaics with shrub and grassland patches, may enhance ESS supply in both of the bioenergy production systems. If tradeoffs between biomass production and other ESS are not addressed by landscape planning, it may be reasonable to include rules in certification schemes that require, e.g., the connectivity of natural or semi-natural forest patches in plantation forestry or semi-natural landscape elements in agricultural production systems. Integrating indicators on landscape configuration and composition into certification schemes is particularly relevant considering that certification schemes are governance tools used to ensure comparable sustainability standards for biomass produced in countries with variable or absent legal frameworks for landscape planning.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0116336
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


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